An excerpt from my script review for The Professor and the Madman which will be available 05/20/19:
1.) Marketability of the Idea
It was toss up on whether to put this part of my review in this section or the format one.
Since it deals more with marketing, in my opinion, it’s going first.
The issue to watch out for, based on the writer/director’s claim and then the later court ruling, is to be careful when hired for a specific writing assignment.
Per the writer, he was hired to write a similar story based on the creation of the Oxford Dictionary, but when nothing happened there he later wrote what he claims was an entirely unique script based on the novel of the same name.
How different were the two scripts? No clue, all we know is shit went south with the producers, and there was a disagreement on the project altogether.
It was “finished” (depending on who you ask perhaps) and was shopped around at festivals to distributors. That’s where the director makes his argument, and hired the attorneys.
Reading the document and various exhibits is informative, but realize they are only one side of the story. The thing that was particularly notable to me was his realistic argument that if this project were to proceed as is (only partially utilizing his work), his script was DOA as far as a later sale was concerned.
Where my word of caution comes in is with the court’s ruling.
Apparently, the judge made the argument that because he was hired to write the initial version, he never truly owned the exclusive rights to the later spec script. (Even with a copyright filed with Library of Congress.)
Whether you agree with it or not, that is something to keep in mind with regards to your own career.
As amateur screenwriters looking for a break, we may be more open to writing gigs that established writers are not, but our ambition should never lead to utter carelessness.
The importance of reading a contract is critical, because smaller production companies may look to take advantage of new talent.
(I once turned down an option contract because it had a clause stating anything I wrote over the duration of the contract would be owned by the production company, whether related to the optioned project or not.)
If you’re curious about being hired to write a project in general, ask your agent or manager.
However, if you’re considering a specific writing assignment you’re being paid for, and have an actual contract in hand, ask for a referral to an entertainment attorney if you don’t already have one.
A few hundred bucks up front could save you a lot of money and headaches later!
(Since this seems to be “direct to streaming/video” BO Mojo didn’t have anything.)
My favorite review was…
“…more exciting than reading the dictionary, but not by much.”
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